Identifying the Gap
With 28% of our freshmen behind cohort, we identified these students as our “closing the gap” group and created several interventions to help them be successful. At the end of the 14-15 school year, only 71.8% of our freshmen earned enough credit to be promoted to 10th grade. Coupled with this data is the current research showing that most high school dropouts fail at least 25% of their ninth grade courses, while 8% of high school completers experienced the same difficulty (Letgers & Kerr, 2001). Students behind cohort negatively impact our overall school goal, department mission and vision to increase graduation rates.
Interventions offered included the creation of a skills lab section for behind cohort students, classroom guidance, GradPoint online course recovery program, 2nd year freshmen celebratory breakfast, and an academic success small group.
Students placed in skills labs received credit, were allotted extra time to complete homework, learned about additional resources, and had extra teacher support. In addition, our Graduation Coach checked in with these students regularly to review grades and academic progress.
In addition, these students received small group services every other week and individual meetings on a biweekly basis. Small group sessions focused on teaching our students how to be academically successful. We also required our students to sign a participation agreement where they agreed to use their planners, attend after school study hall and communicate more with teachers. We coordinated with our Graduation Coach to work with these students, whose primary job is to work with at-risk students who are in jeopardy of dropping out. In between groups, students met with the graduation coach and/or their alpha counselor for individual check ins.
Two of our counselors set up a breakfast to provide positive feedback to encourage student success. These behind cohort students were provided breakfast and a time to visit with their favorite teacher. Students each received a “goody bag” before leaving with words of affirmation from teachers and staff. The goal of this breakfast was to interact with these students positively since they don’t regularly receive very much affirmative feedback.
At the end of the school year, we had 26% of students promoted back to their sophomore cohort. Students earned nearly one more credit, on average, than they did during their freshmen year. (5.29 credits vs. 6.13) We also had 5 students recover credit from Grad Point and 8 students recover credit from summer school. Our group of students who were enrolled in Skills Lab had 41% fewer F’s. While we were pleased with the progress with the closing the gap group, it was only mathematically possible for 9 of our 19 students to recover enough credit to be promoted to 11th grade by the end of the 15-16 school year. Students who participated in the Academic Success Group had more success in the fall than during the spring semester. Lastly, the impact of the 2nd Year Freshmen Breakfast was alarmingly positive with 71% of students having an increase in attendance following the event.
We want to continue the services we provided to help even more students return to cohort status. This year we were more proactive in identifying students behind cohort and connecting them with appropriate interventions. Also, we will look at automatically enrolling our behind cohort students into summer school and Grad Point so they have multiple opportunities to recover credit. In using Grad Point, it is unique in that it will only work for motivated students who have a strong work ethic and put in extra time. Even though the Skills Lab class and check-ins are still in place, our students shared and data showed the small groups should meet all year long rather than only in the fall. We plan to implement more small groups and individual check-ins for students throughout the entire school year. In addition, we plan on sharing the data with staff that positive interactions with students makes a large impact and will work to brainstorm additional interventions in the future. Lastly, while we have a strict policy in our school that seniors must have 6 classes, at minimum, we know that some students are behind cohort and dropping out because of family concerns. We have worked with our administrators to be more flexible with students who need to go to school part time in order to help them graduate with their cohort.